Just a reminder that First Corinthians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church in the city of Corinth. The city of Corinth is located below.
You can see that it is in the southwest part of Greece and right across the sea you will find Ephesus which is where this letter was written. It is not far from Rome and the Italian peninsula. So many of the churches that Paul founded, which considered him literally as the founding father, were located in a small geographical area. It is hard to believe that this movement called the Way exploded into what we have today in Christendom. But Paul was not happy with Corinth and their compromises, which he probably would have called apostasy. Throughout this first letter to the church in Corinth he underscores the importance of getting back to the basics and not being swayed by any new thoughts or ideas of the day which really aren’t new after all.
In the first verses of this chapter he describes how he came to them in Corinth not pretending to be above them, but by reaching out to them in a relational way. Remember, Paul had every right to vaunt himself over others. He went to the best Pharisaical schools, he had studied under the best teachers, after school he had been chosen by the high priest to carry out very sensitive missions. So if anyone could boast about their stature, it would have been Paul. But his authority and his connection with the people of Corinth came from his actions. They knew he had authority and they knew that he loved them because, as vs. 4 states, of the spirit of power. He wants to be sure that they will not be swayed by the presence of any individual, but rather by the power of God. They cannot trust in the words or the wisdom of any one person, especially people who might be stirring things up in Corinth, but rather by the tried and tested power of the Holy Spirit which does not change over the generations.
Paul then switches gears starting at vs.6 to say that to those who are mature, we do use words and concepts that are wise. We are not to remain forever in a state where we only receive and we are never challenged. But there is a fine line. If we feel too challenged then we just might check out and think that this place is not for me. But what would too challenged look like? Maybe a place where we are called to do more than attend. Maybe a place where we are called to participate in a sacrificial way. Maybe a place where we are encouraged and enabled to read Scripture and pray as if it were a normal course of action. Being challenged looks like a place which pushes us away from being satisfied from being an observer to gaining the confidence to become a participant.
Vs.14 is a fairly crucial verse in regards to inclusivity and exclusivity. How can we say that God loves the world and yet there is judgment day? It has to do with the reality that God’s desire is that all would receive and take advantage of the gift of God’s Spirit. Instead, there are some who choose the spirit of the world. These two things are diametrically opposed to each other. If we choose the spirit of the world it means that we would rather follow the example set by our culture and its values and its norms over and against the commandments of love and sacrifice which the Spirit of God provides to us. It is a choice that is made. We do not simply fall on one side or the other, we choose who will be our master. We choose who will be our Lord. If we choose the world then those things of the world will seem appealing. If we choose to follow Jesus then those things of Jesus will be appealing. It seems simple enough, but it really can get quite complicated.
There are some who would take Jesus and his general approach of love and apply that to all things that come about in life. So if we take the principle of love and have that trump any of Jesus’ other words or any other words of scripture then anything that you can paste the label of love on, will win the day. Culture tells us that anything can be labeled by love. Scripture tells us that we are to treat others as ourselves, with love. These two concepts are not opposed, but can you not love your neighbor and yet not agree with your neighbor? Does that mean that you can’t love your neighbor? We are called to have the mind of Christ which is much more than love vs. hate. Christ was incredibly grey in his life. Render to Caesar, God made man for woman, sell all that you have and give to the poor, do not divorce except in for the case of infidelity… These statements seem black and white, and those who are not wise need black and white. The immature need black and white. But those who are wise, I would even say that those who have the Spirit of the Lord, are able to exist in the grey. Because, as Paul tells us in the last verse, we have the mind of Christ.